Songwriting with Pat Pattison

I write riffs, hooks, chord progressions and fragments. I have never written a song that I’m half way happy with. What I have written in the past has been unsatisfactory, incomplete and the lyrics have been downright appalling. I can write a bit of prose, (after a fashion) and once upon a time I could sort of write poetry. But lyrics? Nah, cheesetastic, and generally utterly awful.

But I’m telling a lie now. I have written a song. Just the one, but I am well equipped to write another. Just after Christmas I decided that what I would like to do, musically, is form a soul band. Music for dancing. I’m already part of a disco covers band, and count many talented musicians among my friends, so I’m sure it’s possible. But there was a problem: I didn’t want to be doing yet more covers. Not that I’m against covers, but I’d like to do something different.

I’d heard of Coursera and was aware that they had some free music classes, but didn’t really know much more. I’d already signed up for a Scandinavian Film and TV course so I had an account ready and waiting. So when the idea came to me I had a quick look and spotted some Berklee College of Music courses. I think I must have looked at the Jazz improvisation classes on the past, because I thought the courses were waaaayyy beyond my capabilities, and then I spotted the 6 week Songwriting course, run by Pat Pattison. Obviously, I’d never heard of him, why would I? When I saw the course, it was starting in 2 days. Yikes. It seemed like a big commitment, and I was starting the Film and TV course at the same time. I couldn’t possibly fit them both in. Help!

Anyway, I bit the bullet and dived in. It was scary. I had do show my workings and colouring in, in the assessments, but after week 4 I realised I could write a song, and I even finished one.

Pat Pattison’s method is based around the concept of “prosody”. I knew this term from linguistics, where it mostly refers to the rhythm melodic line, and stress patterns of speech. Pattison uses it as an even more overarching concept of how things work together: “the matching of lyrics and music to support your underlying message”. I learnt about the use of different types of rhyme, and preserving the natural shape of the language. Ways to support the stability or instability of ideas. Jazz education teaches you about some of this, and this certainly helped, and by week six, I had a finished song that I was happy with.

Time to got those soul songs written now, I have the tools. I can do it! If you want to learn some really useful techniques for writing lyrics, I can highly recommend this course. There’s another session starting up in April. And it’s free, so no excuses.